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Federal Alert: A December to Remember
Matthew Mullin   on Friday, December 8, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

It has been a very busy few weeks in Washington. Congress is at once grappling with the most far-reaching tax reform legislation in decades, addressing the latest White House request for supplemental disaster funding, and plotting a course for keeping the government running past the December 22nd expiration of the Continuing Resolution (CR) currently funding the government.

Taxes

The House and Senate have now passed their versions of comprehensive tax reform legislation. There are significant differences between the bills, including individual tax brackets, sunsets for tax benefits, the elimination of tax exemption for some municipal bonds, roll-backs on historic tax credits and the elimination of New Markets Tax Credits.

To be clear, while a step closer to becoming the law of the land, the process is far from over.  Republican leaders in the House and Senate, as well as the White House, are still targeting final passage before the end of 2017.

The members of the conference committee that will iron out the bill for final consideration in the House and Senate are (Democrats in italics):

            Senate
            Sen. Orrin Hatch – UT                                    Sen. Ron Wyden – OR
            Sen. Mike Enzi – WY                                      Sen. Bernie Sanders – VT
            Sen. Lisa Murkowski – AK                             Sen. Maria Cantwell – WA
            Sen. John Cornyn – TX                                  Sen. Debbie Stabenow – MI
            Sen. John Thune – SD                                   Sen. Robert Mendez – NJ     
            Sen. Rob Portman – OH                                Sen. Tom Carper – DE
            Sen. Tim Scott – SC                                       Sen. Patty Murray – WA
            Sen. Pat Toomey – PA

            House
            Rep. Kevin Brady – TX                                   Rep. Richard Neal – MA
            Rep. Devin Nunes – CA                                 Rep. Sander Levin – MI
            Rep. Peter Roskam – IL                                 Rep. Lloyd Doggett – TX
            Rep. Diane Black – TN                                   Rep. Raul Grijalva – AZ
            Rep. Kristi Noem – SD                                   Rep. Kathy Castor – FL
            Rep. Rob. Bishop – UT
            Rep. Don Young – AK
            Rep. Greg Walden – OR
            Rep. John Shimkus – IL

Action Item #1

There is still time to raise your concerns with your Members of Congress, particularly if one of them happens to be on the conference committee. IEDC remains committed to protecting the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds (including Public Activity Bonds), historic tax credits and New Markets Tax Credits and we continue to communicate those views to Congress.

For more information:

The Joint Committee on Taxation has released this very in-depth analysis of the two versions of tax legislation.

Bloomberg Government has put together this very handy side-by-side comparison of the two bills.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a good blog post explaining the scoring of the bill here.

Here is a brief report from the Congressional Research Service on the impact of the House and Senate tax bill on individuals over the life of the bill, by tax bracket.

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, Co-Chairs of the National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, penned an Op-Ed worth reading here.    

Supplemental Disaster Funding

On November 17th, the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) submitted their second supplemental disaster funding request related to Hurricane’s Irma, Marie and Harvey, as well as the Western wildfires. The request totaled roughly $44 billion, including a $300 million request for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). The request was quickly panned by Republican and Democrat lawmakers in Congress as woefully inadequate.

Texas, Florida, California, and Puerto Rico have, collectively, requested roughly $2.04 billion in supplemental funding for EDA. While we are encouraged by OMB’s request of $300 million given their previous requests to shut-down EDA, we are hopeful the agency will receive funding closer to that which was requested by Members of Congress and local leaders from impacted states. There is no firm timeline for when we might see the next supplemental legislation pass through Congress, though it had been hoped it would be part of the next fiscal 2017 appropriations bill, either another Continuing Resolution (CR) or full year spending bill.

Action Item #2

Please continue to encourage your elected officials to include EDA in future disaster supplemental funding requests. Be sure to include any examples you may have of how EDA has supported your community following disasters. If you have been fortunate enough to not need EDA in these circumstances, you should include a project or two from your community that has used EDA funding in the past. These past few months have seen unprecedented disasters impacting multiple states across broad regions. While your community may not be impacted, it is important to recognize that disaster can strike any community and when it does, resources like those offered by EDA will be there to help you rebuild only if we continue to show strong support for them today.

Fiscal 2017 Appropriations

The federal government is currently operating under a CR through Friday, December 22, 2017. If Congress does not act prior to midnight on that date, the federal government will shut down for the first time since 2013. Republicans in the House and Senate, as well as the White House, insist there will not be a shutdown, though disagreements over a number of potential policy riders may bring it down to the wire. OMB proposed shutting down a number of vital economic development programs for fiscal 2018, including MEP, the Minority Business Development Agency, CDBG, and multiple Rural Development programs, among others. Your voices will be critical in saving these agencies.

As a full-year spending bill takes shape, IEDC will share additional details with our members while remaining engaged with appropriators in Congress.

Action Item #3

Reach out to your Members of Congress and ask for their support for EDA in the full-year appropriations bill. Be sure to also include all of the agencies listed in our Why Invest in Economic Development brochure.

The end of 2017 is shaping up to be as exciting as the beginning. IEDC continues to be engaged on the Hill, with our partner agencies, and with our fellow economic development stakeholders. Your voices as economic development practitioners and constituents will always resonate more and it is critically important that you reach out to your elected officials and speak up in support of federal economic development resources and a tax plan to that supports responsible growth.

There will be much to discuss at the 2018 FED Forum March 25-27th here in Washington. Congress may still be grappling with tax reform, and may by that time have added infrastructure to their big-ticket legislative items list. The White House will have released their budget proposal for fiscal 2019, giving us a look at their priorities just over the horizon. We may soon learn more about rumors of a proposed merger of economic development programs and agencies into a new agency or department, and so a discussion among the members our profession on that topic will be timely. Registration is open now and program and speaker details will be updating regularly. We hope to have you with us in March!

Please contact Matt Mullin, Senior Director of Public Policy & Strategic Engagement, at mmullin@iedconline.org with any questions or concerns.